The Irish Red Cross Restoring Family links ( RFL) programme is part of the International Committee of the Red Cross (RFL) network which traces those who have been separated from their relatives, restores contact and reunites families. This is a free service provided all over the world by Red Cross National societies including the Irish Red Cross.
“For families waiting for news about separated family members, the uncertainly and anguish is unimaginable. They have the right to know”, said Jennifer Wilson Irish Red Cross Restoring Family Links Desk Officer. “
In the stories below, names and places have been changed to preserve anonymity.
"My name is Zahra and I am 15 years old and I come from Somalia. I have lived in Ireland for 2 years. Before I came to Ireland I lived with my aunt as my mother died and I am not sure but I think my father is in prison. Things got really bad for us and there was a lot of fighting in my village. We were celebrating a friend’s engagement. The police came storming into our house and stated shooting and arresting people. We managed to escape but I was badly hurt. One of the guests brought me to his house and looked after me. After a while I was ok. My aunt was scared for my safety and she arranged for me to travel to another country. I missed my aunt and was worried about how she was. My social worker helped me fill in the Red Cross forms and I waited for a long time. Then one day I a letter from the Red Cross that she was alive and safe. I was so happy, I could not stop smiling. I was able to send a letter back to her through the Red Cross and send a photo of myself".
"It was a dark October night and I was at home with my family in Rwanda. Suddenly, my home was attacked and I was taken away by the army and put in some unknown barracks for many weeks. I was taken for political reasons and my parents were killed that night for the same issues. I lost contact with my partner and children and was so worried for their safety. I knew one of the guards and he helped me to flee and told me not to get caught as both of us would pay the price with our lives. I was helped by a family friend to leave my country and ended up in Ireland. I was still worried for my family and someone told me that the Red Cross would help me to find my family. They searched in my country but were not able to find them even though they tried very hard. I am now alone without them and wondering if they are alive or dead".
"I was a member of a political party in my country which opposed the government. The soldiers came in the middle of the night and burned my house with all my belongings. It was too dangerous for me to stay and so with a broken heart I left my wife and family behind to save my life. I came to Ireland and sought asylum. After three years I got my status and asked permission from the Irish Authorities to bring my family here. When I received my permission it is was 5 years since I had seen my family. I ached for them but had very little money and could not afford to pay for their travel. I didn’t know what to do. One of my friends told me that the Red Cross would be able to help and gave me the telephone number. I met the lady there and she explained about the Travel Assistance Programme. It gave me hope to know that soon I would have my family with me. Five months later my family arrived in Ireland and at last we could be together as a family".
Photo show our clients elderly mother receiving her ICRC travel documents prior to her travel to Ireland with the help of our travel assistance programme. It has been 9 years since they last saw each other.
My name is Leila and I am 15 years old. I am from Somalia. Before I came to Ireland I live with my two older brothers and my mum. My father was killed after some fighting at our village. I remember it very well as I was there when it happened. My two brothers were not at home when our house was attacked. My father was arguing with a man, I think he was a soldier. He was very big and he had a rifle. He told my dad to be quiet and grabbed hold of my mum. My Dad went to help her and the next thing I remember a loud sound and he was on the ground. He didn’t move. My mother was screaming and crying. I was so frightened. The man went outside our house and set it on fire. She shouted at me to get out and we ran very fast. We ran and ran but we were not sure where to go. We followed all the other people who were also running. We ran into the bush and stayed there for one week. My mum then brought me to the capital and made arrangements for us to leave. Our neighbour was there too. There were a lot of people and we tried to get on the same boat but somehow I managed to lose my mum in the crowd. Our neighbour seen that I was alone and decided to help me. She told me to say that I was her daughter. After a long time travelling we reached Ireland she left me all alone. At that time, I did not even know the name of the country I was now in.
The police found me on the street and took me to a hostel. The next day a social worker talked to me and helped me with my asylum case. The Irish authorities agreed that I could stay in Ireland and the Red Cross contacted me to say that the tracing request I had started to find my family had been successful and they had found one of my brothers. I asked the Irish authorities to allow me to bring my brother here to be with me and they agreed. I knew that the Red Cross had a Travel Assistance programme as the lady there had told me about it before. She was able to help me and six months later my brother was with me in Ireland. I still do not know where my mum and other brother are but I pray that they are alive and safe. Perhaps someday we will find a way of being together again.
For information about our Restoring Family Links service contact Jennifer on (01) 642-4600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.